I’m on vacation this week in the Dominican Republic so I thought I’d use it to respond to all those blog posts (and comments) where people said they felt personally betrayed by American Airlines’ lack of loyalty and respect to customers when they announced immediate changes to their frequent flyer program last week.
I will do that in the form of a fake open letter from American:
Dear Frequent Flyer Members:
We have been pretend saddened by the all of the recent, rather strong sentiments we’ve read online lately regarding the recent updates to our frequent flyer programs. We have been especially moved by all of the people who said that they felt our sudden changes betrayed them, betrayed their loyalty, and showed a complete lack of respect for our customers.
We take those charges to heart, and I would like to respond to them in this forum.
First, that is the most laughable bunch of crap I have heard in a long time. Loyalty is a two-way street, my friends. Oh, you’ve been loyal, you say? Hm…I’ve been reading the same message boards as you and when there’s a mistake fare, what’s the first thing someone writes? Is it, “Please – the airline has been so good to us over the years, be sure to give them a call or shoot them a note on Twitter to make sure they’re aware of the error that was no doubt due to a typo keyed in by a 24-year old in the pricing department?”
What? No? That’s not the response? Oh right – Everyone says, “Whatever you do, don’t call the airline!” Then the threats about lawsuits start. Yes, those are our loyal customers. And at HQ we all just start whining about how terrible you customers are – “how can they treat us this way?” Actually, no we don’t because we’re adults and we know this is a business and we know that our customers will take advantage of us in every way that they can. That’s fine – we don’t whine about it, and you shouldn’t either.
Second, why should we put customers first? Let’s take a look at airlines in the US. Who do people complain about the most? Spirit, by far, right? Yeah – they’ve been profitable for what, 28 straight quarters in a row or something? How about Allegiant? You think they give a rat’s ass when they cancel their twice-monthly service from Timbuktu Falls, Idaho, to Phoenix? No, they don’t. Also they’ve been profitable pretty much for 7 or 8 years.
So why should we go out of our way to make customers happy? We shouldn’t. We should tell customers what they can expect from us (basically safe transportation) then let the cash roll in. I’ll blame it on my predecessors at AA, United and Delta for pretending that we offer anything beyond a safe trip. I’m not going to lie to you anymore: you’ll get safe transportation, and that’s it. The fact that we even have a frequent flyer program is just a bonus. You think ours sucks because we no longer allow a ridiculous domestic stopover? Great – go fly JetBlue and tell me how awesome their frequent flyer program is. Enjoy the free TV.
Third – we INVENTED THE FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM (well, sort of…) It’s ours, and we can do whatever we want. You don’t like it? Oh – please, go switch to Delta. You’ll find their miles to be extremely useful….on Saudi Arabian Airlines.
We at American (and if we’re being honest, every other airline) give a crap about exactly one thing: getting you where you’re going safely. That you’re getting miles at all is only a testament to the fact that our credit card and bank partners will buy a zillion of them and hand them to you for basically doing nothing. Do you know how hard it is to actually fly 100,000 miles? That takes most of our customers more than 4 years or trips to Dallas or wherever. Or you can sign up for exactly one credit card. Who do you think we care the most about? Exactly.
The US airline industry is the healthiest it’s ever been. You liked cheap fares, empty planes and available award seats? You know what that cost? That cost the livelihood of just about every airline. There used to be dozens of airlines flying around the US – there are fewer than 10 of any size. Why? Because it turns out you can’t give away your seats and make money. Imagine that.
So sure – we’re in a bit of a conundrum — we print miles because banks will buy them, but we don’t have enough seats flying around to give the seats away like we used to. So we have to tweak that…and hoo boy, you sure don’t like that.
Oh, you’re so loyal to us. I have some bad news: we don’t care. Go, fly Spirit. Have fun. You’ll enjoy that. You want to buy cheap fares? They’ve got them. That’ll open up seats to people who either want to fly us (why?) or have to because of corporate agreements. Oh, I should’ve mentioned that – we do care about our corporate customers. That is, we care about the corporations who agree to have their flyers travel on our airline. But you? No, you don’t matter so much.
That’s not a bad thing for you – you can fly other airlines all you want. Fly whoever is cheapest. Or whoever has live TV or wi-fi or whatever it is you’re looking for. I know you’re not loyal. “Whatever you do, don’t call the airline” – whew, does that piss me off.
So let’s stop pretending we have a healthy relationship. Treat us like you do your groceries – buy whatever brand is cheapest, and just consider any miles you get to be gravy. In return, I’ll stop pretending that we offer you a 5-star hotel experience in the sky. Because we don’t.
Let’s hug it out.
The opinions expressed in this pretend piece are exclusively those of pretend American Airlines management and only represent about 90% of what the OTR believes.